Time seems like an old friend in Kenya. The kind of friend you want to linger. The friend you feel safe with. Time that allows you to dance, not rush, into church high above the Rift Valley. To take seats on pews only to stand up too many times to ...

 

Becoming a “How are You?” People and more...




Becoming a “How are You?” People

Time seems like an old friend in Kenya. The kind of friend you want to linger. The friend you feel safe with.

Time that allows you to dance, not rush, into church high above the Rift Valley.

To take seats on pews only to stand up too many times to count to greet one another. To acknowledge the neighbors, the church leaders, the guests.

Time to welcome the people. All God’s people.

Especially the children.

Time to sing.

And sing.

And sing.

This is time as friend.

We drive long dirt roads and see people just lounging in the fields and Sophie names it, “People are happy to linger here.”

We order lunch and wait. We wait. We wait. In the waiting there is conversation with Mildred, a young woman going through the Compassion program and Eliud, a Compassion alumni.

Our conversation is the slow kind that steeps and has time to grow more potent.

After awhile I lean towards Eliud, the man who grew up in the Mathare slum. I look at him beaming bright with his boy right next to him. And I hope for Smith, the child I just sponsored who is right now this very minute in the slum, I hope that he can grow up and be like Eliud. With a good job. A family. Out of the slum.

I ask like I’m digging, “What was it your sponsor told you in the letters he wrote that you needed to hear?”

I ask because I am digging, I think. But for what?

For gold?

For hope?

I want to know what Jeremy and I should say when we write Smith. What do you tell a child who has a life you’ll never understand? A hardship you’ve only seen but never tasted? A road that looks pocked with more valleys than one’s share.

He leans back into my question like he doesn’t just hear it. He feels my desperation.

“You must ask him, ‘How are you?’”

I hold my breath and move my eyes back and forth searching for more. I was ready for Eliud to wax on reciting Bible verses, giving me the most encouraging words to share.

I say it back like I misunderstood, “I should ask him how he is? Like, just how he is doing?”

“In the slum, no one asks you how you are. Everyone is fighting for survival. They are too focused on how they are going to get by. The children are of little concern. My sponsor was the only one to ask me how I was doing. And I knew, he wanted to know me.”

Because we were created to be known.

He helps me, “When you sponsored Smith you conveyed to him that you want to know him. Now you have to know him. You have to ask, ‘How are you?‘”

Back in America I know I will let time be less like a friend. I will let it overthrow me like a merciless dictator. I’ll rush. And get flustered. I’ll stop only to consider why I do not have more time.

But I want to be more of a “how are you?” person. I want to stop and sing. I want to dance into church, into a home, into a heart. I want to stop and say, “You are welcome here.”

Smith will remind Jeremy and me to be a “how are you?” people. To be curious about those in front of us.

To be inquisitive and timeless.

To remember that it wasn’t enough to just invite Smith to our table. Now we need to make him known to us. We need to ask, “How are you?”

You can be a, “how are you?” people too. You can sponsor a child from Kenya and get curious. You can send your first letter and write it like you mean it, “How are you?”

Will you sponsor a child from Kenya today?

At the writing of this, 53 new children have a sponsor and will get to hear, maybe for the first time in a long time, “How are you?” Will you join us?

Please also read the fresh posts from Shaun Groves, Sophie Hudson and Jamie Ivey.

The post Becoming a “How are You?” People appeared first on Our Savory Life.

 

Go Get the Neighbors

We bumped up and down a steep dirt road again this morning. Sophie, Jamie and I braced ourselves against the seat in front of us and I wondered if I’d ever feel steady again.

It’s been two days and I still can’t escape the smell of the Mathare slum.

I’ve been swinging at hope my whole life. Sometimes it bursts open like a piñata and I scamper all around trying to pick up what it’s dropping. I scoop it up into the fabric of my skirt. I wear it like a shield. I post it at the entryway of my heart.

I look at hope, blind as I am, and with sober certainty say, “You are going to walk me right out of this world. Arm in arm. It’s you and me.”

I’ve heard hoping for what we can see is no hope at all. So we wait, patiently.

Some of the stories that have been shared this week make me want to go storming up to Justice’s front door, bang loudly and demand, “Excuse me, but you are needed here now. Yesterday was preferable.”

But today, we hadn’t taken two steps off the van onto the dirt of this little community, placed high above the Rift Valley, before singing caught my ear. It drummed a beat back into me. The mamas grabbed our hands and danced us into church.

I should note that we only danced halfway to the church door and then, as these things go, it seemed completely appropriate to continue our entrance into the church by way of a conga line.

Sometimes hope comes in the form of a conga line formed by mamas and babies.

We entered the church and as we took our seats, all lit up with joy, when we were asked to stand again. Because, more dancing.

Then we lingered and talked. Pastor Paul brought a short but sweet word. He said, “One day we will all stand at the gates of Heaven and hear our Father tell us, ‘Well done my good and faithful servant.’”

And I ached to stand at the gates of Heaven with Pastor Paul. And with the women of this community, Ruth and Victoria. Mary and Elizabeth.

Jamie and I would later go to the home of a mother who’s child has just been registered in the Compassion program. We beamed as she shared how she has been able to start a business. How her husband abandoned her but the church was not having any of that – they came in and helped her create a business so she could provide for her family. They registered her child in the Compassion Sponsorship Program.

As the mother went on I abruptly interjected, “But how did you know about the church? How did you get your child registered in Compassion?”

She looked at me like I had asked the dumbest question. She said, “The neighbors.”

Our translator intervened and explained that Pastor Paul simply tells the church, “Hey church, go into the community, to those who are in need. Bring them here. We can help.”

Go get the neighbors. 

That seems…undeniably simple. It seems instinctually like the mark of Jesus.

I brought my fascination back to the church and Shaun asked Pastor Paul to explain more how he shepherds his church. He has a passion for children. A heart for the needy. An obedience to the Word of God. And then he said, “With Compassion, we can reach so many more.”

And Compassion is made up of sponsors.

“Finally, I’ve come to believe that the true measure of our commitment to justice, the character of our society, our commitment to the rule of law, fairness, and equality cannot be measured by how we treat the rich, the powerful, the privileged, and the respected among us. The true measure of our character is how we treat the poor, the disfavored, the accused, the incarcerated, and the condemned.” -Bryan Stevenson

Our life, this life, is not a dress rehearsal.

There will only be one curtain call.

We can come before our Lord filled with things of the world – which will look mostly like rot. I hope I come empty handed. I hope I can show my Lord my barren hands and say, “I gave it all, Father. Everything you gave me, I gave it all.”

Today I talked to Jeremy. He in the Middle East. Me in Kenya. But our heart beats the same despite the distance. I told him that maybe I don’t ever want to forget about the Mathare slum. Maybe I want to always be part of what God is doing there.

Maybe I’m banging on Justice’s door but maybe Justice is responding, “Come on in, sister! We need you. Let’s get to work.”

And Jeremy said, “It’s time to sponsor another child.” And we did.

We took a seat at the table of Justice. We decided to be the Church Pastor Paul talked about. We decided to be the people who go get the neighbors. The ones in need.

We can do this together. Will you join me? Will you sponsor a child from Kenya today?

New posts from my friends Jamie, Sophie and Shaun are also live today. Please read?

The post Go Get the Neighbors appeared first on Our Savory Life.

 

An Open Letter to the Maasai People of Najile Church

When we loaded into our safari vans to get to your church I had no idea the terrain we would have to cross, the desolation and stretches of barren land, before we could step onto your little patch of dirt in the world.

You stood in direct contrast to all the brown that surrounded you. You were vibrant. Radiant. You were filled full. Brimming.

We couldn’t have looked more different, you and me. I could not have been more of a stranger. But you shook my hand and said, “Welcome.”

It sounded familiar. It sounded like God.

Then  you went and adorned us with the type of jewelry your tribe wears and I knew. We were neighbors.

Despite race, culture, location, language, or background you looked at me in this nostalgic way. You said, “Now you are one of us.”

And then you danced for us. The best neighbors always dance and you did not disappoint. First there was the dance that told the story of the Maasai hunting a lion. The quiet and lifeless valley filled with joyous sounds I had never heard before. You smiled big at us and I could not stop smiling back.

Of course the next order of business was tea and cookies. Because when you welcome someone into your home you always offer something to eat and drink. Your offering? A small cracked plate filled with sugar cookies and creamy milk tea. You reminded me the meal never has to be fancy or fussed over.

Church was homey. You kept saying hi to us from the pulpit and we all said hi back. This happened many times. Service was a conversation.

As we emptied the room you lined the whole congregation up so that everyone was greeted. Everyone was welcomed.

You let the little children come to us.

This is what you taught me, you might be on the outskirts of the world but you are not on the outskirts of God’s love. You built His house on your mud. You partnered with Compassion to give your children education, your community clean water, your women dignity and rights.

You showed me there is hospitality despite poverty.

You reminded me, in God’s economy you treat your neighbor as yourself. You give him or her your cloak. Your food. Your blessing.

You reminded me that Jesus is in the business of inviting. He pulls us close, no matter how far off the map we may feel, He leans in and assurances us, “Welcome. You are welcome here.”

What we do with our own little invitations into this world matters. God thought we might need some help so he told us the things that are important.

To love Him and others above all else.

To care for the poor.

To give to the needy.

To welcome the stranger.

To give with joy.

Jeremy and I have taken these commands most seriously. We do not take lightly the gifts God has given us. We have been born into privilege, wealth, freedom. We do not want to return to our Father still holding onto these things.

We believe that if God has given us any kind of influence, any bit of wealth, it is so we can partner with Him to help those in need. God is always sending His people to save His people. There was Moses and Joseph. Ruth and Jonah. Jesus. And now, it turns out He wants to use us.

We can’t think of a better way to care for the needy and extend God’s invitation, His, “You belong to me. You are welcome here,” than by sponsoring children living in extreme poverty. We give our $38/month and we proclaim to a child who might not have ever known, “You are seen. You are loved. You are welcome here.”

Will you also consider the great opportunity you have to share with a child living in desperate poverty that they are welcome here? Will you sponsor a child from Kenya today?

Please read the posts by Jamie Ivey and Sophie Hudson about their time with the Maasai. Thank you for reading friends. You have encouraged me with your prayers and your action.

The post An Open Letter to the Maasai People of Najile Church appeared first on Our Savory Life.

 

Take Me to Church

Today I went to church right outside the gates of hell.

But I didn’t know that is where I was. Not at first.

This morning the Compassion Bloggers and I took our seats in this small church in Mathare. Children filled the front of the room and sang us songs about Jesus. We all clapped. We sang when we knew the words. We smiled as bright as we could. In the mix of it all I noticed a boy who’s eyes were trained on me. But he was not smiling. I’d wave at him and he’d look away. This cycle continued for about 10 minutes. Eventually, I thought maybe he just needs to be invited? Maybe he wants a new place to sit?

The next time I caught his glance I tapped on my lap trying to motion for him to come sit. It was the best thing I could offer at that moment. I was sure he wouldn’t come. He could barely look at me when I waved at him. But before I knew it, he was climbing into my lap.

At first he sat there timidly. But, slowly, I think he decided I was safe. He grabbed my hand like he was trying to steady his soul. He laid back on me and drew a long breath. His body went limp as he shimmied in closer. It seemed like he hadn’t rested in years. I was about to find out why.

I was about to learn about living conditions in the Mathare slum.

It only took us one slight right out of the gate where the church was, proceeded by a few steps, to enter the Mathare slum.

Mathare Valley is one of the oldest and worst slums in Nairobi, Kenya. It is reported that one of every three adults is HIV positive. Do you know what that means? It means there are a lot of orphans. It means there are a lot of kids trying to take care of kids. And just to survive, these kids and teens are turning to drugs, gangs and prostitution.

Which is readily available to them, if not already banging on their door.

If evil is looking for a bulls-eye for children who are highly vulnerable and unprotected – the Mathare slum has it. And the Enemy has his arrow aimed and steadied on the target. We were told stories of some of the terrible things that happen to the young children who live in this slum. Stories I’d rather not repeat.

So these kids, they aren’t just raising other kids. They aren’t just trying to find food for daily survival – which is more than too much to bear. They’re also trying to escape being preyed on.

And then there is the smell. It’s the one thing I feel like I cannot properly describe to you. My stomach turned as we walked through sewage and I looked in disbelief as I watched children barely old enough to walk, sitting and playing in the slush. I later learned that there are no proper toilets in this slum. They use what is called “sling toilets.” A bag filled with their waste and then slung into the slum. The river that runs through the valley has water that is filled with this waste and this water is also used to wash their clothes. Which makes disease in this area prevalent.

Inside the Mathare slum we met with children and families who are part of the Compassion program.

This means they are being fed. This means they are receiving medical care. Clean water. Education. The hope of God. This means they have a sponsor who is writing them and encouraging them.

As we emerged from the valley of the Mathare, we took a slight left turn back into the church. The church that is cozied right up against the evil of the world. The smell dissipated. Children were dressed nicely in matching track uniforms given to them by Compassion. Their playing was interrupted by snack time.

There were clean bathrooms and clean water. We ducked into a classroom to find a room of children ready to write letters to their sponsors.

It was hard for me to get my mind around the stark contrast between the hope and peace behind the gate where the church sat from the evil and stench that was just feet away.

But then I remember what Jesus said about church.

The first time church is mentioned is by Jesus in Matthew 16:18. He says to Peter, “…and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.”

The gates of hell shall not prevail against it. Amen.

So, let’s look at it again.

This is the church.

This is the slum.

This is the church.

This is the slum.

Church.

Slum.

What is clear is that the light has penetrated the darkness. But the darkness has been unable to invade the light. It can’t. Jesus said so. And then He chose his people to be the church. And he asked us to care for the poor.

I am not going to try to be clever or eloquent here. So here it goes. This:

does not happen without sponsors. It does not happen without sponsors. It does not happen without sponsors. 

Evil is working overtime in Mathare. And we cannot afford to look away. You can shine your light into this slum and other impoverished areas in Kenya.

Please sponsor a child from Kenya today.

To read more about the Mathare Slum please read the stories from Jamie, Sophie and Shaun.

The post Take Me to Church appeared first on Our Savory Life.

 

To Kenya. With Hope.

The gap between the way things are run in this world and my ignorance is growing paper thin.

When I was asked to go on my first Compassion blog trip in 2011 I couldn’t say yes fast enough. My heart fell out with the exclamation. I couldn’t have known life as I knew it would fall out from me too.

Just two months prior I had gotten married so it kind of worked for me to be distracted by the newness of marriage while walking the depravity of the world. The trick of poverty is it can be so quiet when we are in our comfortable. But when you step into its reality it is the loudest thing you’ve ever heard.

You close your hands over your ears to stifle the sound only to realize it’s not ringing in your head – it’s rattling in your soul.

I found that poverty either didn’t want me to know about it at all or it wanted me to only be able to hear its hard ugly so it could disable me from action.

Don’t know me. Or know only me.

When I left the Philippines I felt like I had just left some overdone magic house at a carnival. I could not grasp what I just saw. Or what poverty even was. It was confusing. It had tricks. It was too big for me to hold.

When I left I could almost see poverty wave with a smirk on its face and wish me farewell, “Goodbye, you don’t belong here. Please never come back. Besides, what could you really do?

I could not wait to crawl into my bed. In my free country. With access to my, well…everything.

And I did go home. I fell into my new husband’s arms. I started to cook.

I found God had such a different response from the one I heard from poverty. It sounded more like, “Thank you for going. Thank you for seeing. Now, what are you going to do?

Trips kept coming up. And each time the yes came out a little more delayed a little more tame. First it was, “YES!!! YES! YES! YES!!!!” and then, “Yes!”

“Yes.”
“Ummm…ye….s.”
“Ok. Right. …yes?”

With every yes I saw that God was refining me. I was being awakened to the harsh reality of a world teeming in sin. I had a visceral understanding of why Jesus came to heal the broken.

“The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the poor; he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound…” -Isaiah 61:1 (ESV)

This was no longer just some verse to be memorized so I could recite it at conferences and in churches.

Justice was no longer just some word printed in pretty script on a popular t-shirt. I desired it in my gut.

You cannot say yes to something without actively saying no to something else. And I was saying no to ignorance.

Yesterday I got on a plane to Kenya. I’m still on a plane to Kenya. I’m not going alone. I’m bringing some amazing people who want to use the influence God has given them to shine a light into the darkest corners of the earth. Sophie Hudson, Jamie Ivey, and Shaun Groves.

They want to use their influence to tell the stories of children living in desperate poverty. They actively said yes to this trip. Actively said yes to seeing what God is doing in Kenya. And in doing so, actively said no to ignorance.

Poverty, I initially came to you scared and confused and too privileged. But this time I come assured of the Light that lives in me. And the darkness cannot survive the light.

Friends, I want to humbly ask if you will say yes with us too? Will you follow our trip? Will you come and see what the Lord is doing in Kenya? Will you give the children we meet the honor and respect of reading their stories?

The bloggers and I promise to engage, to see each child as a divine appointment from God. To not sleep until we have told a story every day – and told it well.

I pray that the Holy Spirit awakens you to the “yes” God has for you. Maybe it is to share these stories? To pray for the children in Kenya? To make the decision to sponsor a child?

Our God has chosen to work in us and through us to bring justice to the captives. To heal the broken. There is no quick solution to this – we are actively and consciously storming the gates of injustice and hopelessness.

We need all hands on deck.

The post To Kenya. With Hope. appeared first on Our Savory Life.

 
 
   
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